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Restaurants

Swan Restaurant

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on August 12, 2012 / review policy

Swan Restaurant TorontoSwan is consistently mentioned as one of the best brunch spots in the city. And there are regularly long line-ups to match this reputation. But with a little online research it seems there is a recent consensus among diners that the food and service has become hit or miss.

Nonetheless the various online reviews and comments often end on a high note with a fervent recommendation that comes back to the ambiance. Rightly so - Swan is one of Toronto's most charming restaurants with its '50s diner-style retro decor. I went in on a mission to discover the truth. Would teak wood, cozy leather booths and aborite tables be enough to woo my friends and I over?

Swan Restaurant TorontoSaturday 2pm. No lineup but the place is packed including someone at every barstool (I get the feeling that the semblance of having regular patron prestige makes sitting at the bar in hot demand at Swan).

Swan TorontoOur hot coffee and sweetened-just-right fresh ice tea arrives promptly. Service is quick and attentive.

Swan TorontoBefore delving into our greasy brunch we decided to split an arugula salad to start, with a sherry lemon vinaigrette, slivered pears and goat cheese for $9. This was really, really tasty; simple and light.

Swan TorontoSatisfied with the initial healthy choice, I go straight for the no-protein no-nutrients bread-on-bread French toast ($9). And that's about all I know I'm getting into because the menu provides no description. The French toast arrives sprinkled in icing sugar and covered in a tart raspberry coulis with a melon and orange slice on the side. Off the bat I'd be quick to judge that I prefer covered in chocolate or stuffed with cream cheese, but the fruit drizzle is more than enough to satisfy.

The huevos rancheros comes with a black bean tortilla, avocado salsa, sour cream and two eggs over easy ($11). At first glance: awesomesauce. But a few bites in we realize it's ice cold so we send it back. The second attempt comes out quickly and is hot all the way through. However it was in a word bland; far from huevos rancheros' typically high standards.

Swan RestaurantSo this review is going to end like most of the others. Swan could up the consistency but the prices are right and the ambiance delightful so in my books this nostalgic little diner can keep its landmark status for a go-to brunch on West Queen West.

Swan TorontoWriting and photos by Megan Leahy. Interior photo by Tanja-Tiziana Burdi.

Discussion

28 Comments

Bob / October 21, 2009 at 03:06 am
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The interior of this brunch place is promising but don't let that fool you. They had great coffee but the actual food was terrible. The worst part was all the cumin they add to their potatoes - gross.
Onetimer replying to a comment from Bob / November 30, 2009 at 11:15 pm
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I thought most of the food wasn't bad but you totally nailed the over cumined-potatoes, they were hard to stomach.
Leslie and Angelo / March 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm
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In a busy restaurant for brunch on a Sunday morning it was a relief to be greeted and offered a coffee quickly while waiing for a table. Much to our surprise we were able to get a true Italian expresso that rivaled any Italian restaurant in the city - manifico!! Once seated we were served quickly, efficiently - all with a friendly smile. The food was fresh, plentiful, and hot. It was a fusion of Spanish, Indian, French and Canadian quisine. We would definately recommend this restuaruant for brunch!! We give this restaurant 4 spoons out of 5.
creativefitness / April 8, 2010 at 09:39 am
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Bob is right. The food here is subpar. I only went once and never went back. It's really akin to servery food. How this place manages to survive is beyond me. Perhaps they are good at fooling the pretentious wannabes who believe any establish on this strip is 'hip', and in their desire to be "seen" they'll pay the ridiculous prices for something that is no better than cafeteria cuisine.

But, the service was unoffensive and acceptable.
Sydney / May 7, 2010 at 06:50 pm
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I have to disagree with the naysayers. I love Swan.
I've always had great service and great food there.
Their Caesars are top notch (the freshly grated horseradish doesn't go unnoticed), their eggs are poached to perfection, and their dreamy barista made me the best latte I've ever had.
Said / May 6, 2011 at 08:46 pm
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Swan is amazing, go for lunch and dinner. The braised beef short ribs rock, and they always serve lots of vegetables.
Amazing brunch / May 26, 2011 at 09:20 am
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I can't believe there are naysayers about this place, but I suppose there are always are. It's AMAZING!!! One of my favourite brunch places, and I've been to a lot.

Get the hot sauce, soooo good!!
Philip / September 8, 2011 at 01:41 am
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I went to Swan a couple months ago and had the lamb burger. Probably one of the best burgers I have ever had. I went back today to see if it was a fluke. I am happy to report that it was just as amazing. I had the soup of the day (tomato), grilled bread appetizer, lamb burger, and bread pudding for dessert. Every dish was really amazing. Reasonably priced too. The service is great (friendly and attentive without going overboard).
Lalpanjabi / December 20, 2011 at 02:03 pm
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Great atmosphere, awesome food, good sized portions.
Katie / February 18, 2012 at 03:20 pm
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Thought the place looked cool, went in ordered the burger, and that night had food poisoning. I'm not one to give bad reviews but needless to say I was very disappointed with having to hug my toilet the whole night
MMMC / May 6, 2012 at 02:32 pm
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Okay service. Okay atmosphere. Subpar food. Good sized portions.

The trick with public comments on BlogTO food features are to know these two basic things: People who notice a service or product are subpar are not naysayers, they are honorable public servants. I wish I had followed their advice about Swan and spent my money elsewhere. People who likedy-like Swan with an overdose of amazing!!! exclamation points!!! are never to be trusted. They are like snake oil salesmen with bad taste. True and positive reviews do exist, but they never try to show you how excited they are!!! like this!!!
alexia d / August 12, 2012 at 11:56 am
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I haven't been in about 6 months, so maybe things change... but, the Swan has been my favourite place for brunch + dinner for years.
bird uncle / August 12, 2012 at 03:26 pm
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Meh. As Mascis, Barlow, and Murphy said, "Forget The Swan".
Gabe / August 12, 2012 at 11:57 pm
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Elevated Brunch!? Try the CN Tower!!!! You'll go around once in an hour - great spot!!!
Gabe / August 13, 2012 at 12:02 am
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dOes Anyone know where there is a good old fashioned $3.99-4.99 Breakfast? Two eggs, potatoes, Bacon or sausage or ham.

Forget going out for brunch and paying $40-$60.00 for two
CL / August 13, 2012 at 12:13 am
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@Gabe - Try Karine's inside Village By The Grange. They have $5 breakfast specials.
Notesonameal / September 4, 2012 at 08:20 pm
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I have been going to the Swan for about three years now and have always thought of it as my secret comfort food locale in Toronto. The service was always friendly, the decor cozy and certainly interesting and the food simple and delicious. I always walked away full and enjoyed every morsel of food on my plate. However, I am outraged at the major change that has happened there. Just visited on Sunday of Labour Day weekend (12) and left feeling sick and ripped off.
The menu has changed so their reasonably priced mains no longer include any sides. Their plates have become tiny and uninspiring. And to top everything off, it ended up being an 80$ dinner for two people with two drinks and mains (this is outrageous for a place like the swan).
I'm very sorry to have to put this particular comment up since this USED to be one of my favourite Toronto restaurants.
SBW / October 28, 2012 at 07:15 pm
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This WAS one of my favourite places right across the street but if you go at lunch you are likely to encounter a freak-show terrible waitress with glasses circa 1984 who is some kind of psycho always bitching and moaning about everything. She clearly does not enjoy her job. Best to avoid at lunch time! Get back to the colony! Until that stupid wench is gone, I refuse to dine there!
TLV / December 30, 2012 at 02:20 pm
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I'm surprised there are so many naysayers here. I've never had anything but exceptional food and service and Swan, and I've been going for years for brunches, lunches and dinners. I know almost every restaurant (unless you've got Michelin stars) has a bad day now and then, but I've honestly never had one at Swan. Highly recommend. They always play great music, too.
Pani.T / August 29, 2013 at 10:55 am
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The exterior/Interior grabs attention. Ok Brunch. Terrible dinner. Staff are polite. They play great music. As a strong supporter of small businesses, I have given it a few good try. Will never return. Avoid Pork chop/Duck on dinner menu. rest is ok.
SBW / September 8, 2013 at 06:57 pm
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This is truly the GREY GARDENS of Toronto restaurants. Crappy servers (except for the bartenders) and sub-par food.

You so belong back in 1995. Time to move on.
SBW replying to a comment from MMMC / September 8, 2013 at 06:59 pm
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I agree completely. I posted that this is Toronto`s `Grey Gardens`of restaurants. The glory days are past. It all feels a bit tired with surly waitstaff and sub-par food. Time to call it a day!
SBW replying to a comment from Amazing brunch / September 8, 2013 at 07:01 pm
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I posted that this is Toronto`s `Grey Gardens`of restaurants. The glory days are past. It all feels a bit tired with surly waitstaff and sub-par food. Time to call it a day!
SBW replying to a comment from Notesonameal / September 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm
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I hear ya, it has gone way down hill in terms of service and food in recent years.
SBW / September 11, 2013 at 01:49 pm
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please could we have a new, fresh restaurant in at this location? The time has come === time to move on Swan, your menu has not changed in years, my fellow Candy Factory and Chocolate Factory loft customers are looking for something less circa 2000 and get some new servers with a good attitude!
Jack / November 17, 2013 at 02:36 pm
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Dear Bar Back/ server,

I asked for a newspaper today and you laughed at me. I walked out on you. Too bad, you missed out on my tip. Found a better brunch spot on college street. "Maggie's" ( 400 college street) better food, better service. Oh and the newspaper was already on the table. Agree with SBW.
katherine / May 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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I love this place! I've been a couple of times. The first just for a quick bite; they had a special on potato and leek soup, that was amazing, creamy and light, could have used more salt but i like the freedom to salt my soup to my own liking, then i ordered yet another special- the peameal bacon on rye with a maple mayo and smoked provolone, i was in heaven. such quality ingredients too! The second experience a friend and i went for what we thought would be brunch, the menu had a few brunch-ish items but nothing tickled our fancy so we ordered a couple salads and sandwiches instead. i got the club house, the idea of using pancetta (italian bacon) is great, the saltyness in the bacon contrasted the smokiness of the chicken it was amazing. coming from a very italian family my palette has grown to recognize quality meats and this was top quality. Their fries are to die for. The server was tentative and kind. The kitchen staff peeped out of the kitchen from time to time to check on the restaurant which i found gave it a home like feel. Overall, I love it here. i wish i could eat all my meals at The Swan!! Prices are fantastic too!
Michelle / July 5, 2014 at 05:11 pm
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I popped into Swan today for brunch, and had really yummy sausage and eggs ($11). The servers were attentive and fun. They add a bit of cinnamon to the home fries, which makes it delicious. I would definitely go back.

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